SteelSeries Spectrum 7XB Gaming Headset for Xbox 360 hands-on

We have to begin this hands-on by saying that the SteelSeries Spectrum 7XB is a set of headphones for bona fide hardcore gamers, those that are willing to pay that bit extra to lend their Call of Duty, Gears of War, or Halo sessions a professional edge. That's why they are around £164.99. They cost more than a 4GB Xbox 360 itself... and proudly so.

If you want to play in the big leagues, these are the headphones for you.

But, what makes them special?

The answer: Everything.

Solidly built, just wearing them lends a gamer an air of superiority. They feel like the sort of cans a helicopter machine gunner might wear, and that's perfect for putting you in the zone for pro-style FPS action. They are also remarkably comfortable, with more padding than Primark's teen swimming costumes. And, possibly most importantly in the design stakes, they are completely wireless. Sort of.

In the box, there is a 2.4GHz wireless sender, which has a USB connection, but that's purely to power it. It also features an audio input and volume control, which need to be fed the game/TV's sound feed via mini jack or phono leads (supplied). You can also hook it up to an amplifier if needed, although there's no digital audio connection, just analogue.

The downside is that, before you even start, you'll have to fiddle around behind your AV set-up, but the benefit is that you can also use the Spectrum 7XB as headphones (no mic) for PC, TV or PS3. And if you are rooting it through an AV receiver or amplifier, you don't need to switch over plugs to do so.

The headset itself comes with a decent, storable and bendable lip microphone, but this is where a wire will need to be involved. To use it with the voice features on Xbox Live, you will need to hook the cans up to your joypad via a supplied mini USB cable. If you have a wireless controller, however, you'll still have freedom, just the one umbilical from ear to hands.

There are individual volume controls for received audio and voice, plus there's an additional volume control on the transmitter so that you can finely adjust the input sensitivity for different devices. Our tip: set it to middle, and use the headset controls for everything else.

Features aside though, the pro nature of the Spectrum 7XBs comes with their audio performance. They genuinely enhance gaming experiences to awesome levels. Even without using Xbox Live chat, just playing an atmospheric game, such as Fear 3 or Dead Space 2, is enhanced by the soundfield so much that the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

They're stereo, but with a full and meaty sound - like someone eating a packet of beef Monster Munch near your ear - and the spacing is tuned enough for you to pick out sonic events in a pseudo 360-degree audioscape.

And they come with an ExactSND button, offering three selectable audio options; performance, immersion and entertainment, each with their own individual signatures.

In short, if you love your gaming - and specifically multiplayer Xbox 360 action - you'd do far worse than save up for a set of these bad boys. Top notch!



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